Handy Vandal's Almanac

Resources for Game Designers

The evolution of snooker video games

Boing Boing reports:

Starting with a 1984 version of snooker (kind of like pool with more balls and smaller pockets) for the Commodore 64, Nostalgia Nerd shows how videogame versions of the game have evolved over the years. Even though the latest versions are hyperrealistic, I think the simple C64 version is the most appealing, but as Nostalgia Nerd points out, the physics and collision detection are laughable.

Microsoft Solitaire enters video game hall of fame

Microsoft SolitaireIncluded free of charge with Windows since 1990, Microsoft Solitaire has finally achieved immortality in the World Video Game Hall of Fame.

Microsoft Solitaire meets all the criteria for the World Video Game Hall of Fame: influence, longevity, geographical reach, and icon-status. And yet it is often overlooked—perhaps because it’s a digital version of a centuries-old game, and because it so common as to seem commonplace.

Other 2019 inductees include Colossal Cave Adventure, Mortal Kombat and Super Mario Kart.

Via Boing Boing.

Mega Man 8-bit Deathmatch

Mega Man 8-Bit DeathmatchMy friend Tom recommends Mega Man 8-bit Deathmatch, a free project created by CutmanMike and Team MM8BDM who consist of hardcore fans of Capcom’s classic Mega Man series. Powered by the Zandronum engine, this retro styled first person shooter is designed around the look and feel of the 8-bit Mega Man games.

Mega Man 8-bit Deathmatch is a free project created by CutmanMike and Team MM8BDM who consist of hardcore fans of Capcom’s classic Mega Man series. Powered by the Zandronum engine, this retro styled first person shooter is designed around the look and feel of the 8-bit Mega Man games. It includes every robot master as a playable skin, over 50 weapons and maps based off the original games, 32 player online play, a singleplayer botmatch campaign and much much more. If you’re a fan of online first person shooters or Mega Man, you simply have no excuse to not download and give Mega Man 8-bit Deathmatch a try today!

About MM8BDM

MM8BDM can be modified:

* Modification @ mm8bdm wiki: “As MM8BDM is created in Zandronum, it shares its extremely flexible modding capabilities. Creating your own levels, gameplay modifications, skins etc.”
* So you want to learn to map, eh? @ Cutstuff Forums

Zandronum is a source port of the Doom engine, which was originally used in the video game Doom:

Zandronum was first released as version 1.0 on August 24, 2012. Zandronum improved support up to 64 players online per server and introduced software rendering for 3D floors, previously an OpenGL-only feature in Skulltag. Zandronum runs on a huge number of PC architectures (including Windows, Linux and OSX) and comes with Doomseeker – A utility to browse for available servers in network, automatically download the required data packs (WADs) and start one’s own server. Zandronum’s most recent version is 3.0, released on September 7, 2017. [Source: Wikipedia]

Artificial intelligence finds surprising solution to Q*bert

Q*bertArtificial intelligence sometimes solves problems using solutions which surprise humans. I find this quality charming — menacing*, but charming.

The Verge reports: “A video game-playing AI beat Q*bert in a way no one’s ever seen before.”

[A] trio of machine learning researchers from the University of Freiburg in Germany … were exploring a particular method of teaching AI agents to navigate video games (in this case, desktop ports of old Atari titles from the 1980s) when they discovered something odd. The software they were testing discovered a bug in the port of the retro video game Q*bert that allowed it to rack up near infinite points.

As the trio describe in [their] paper, published on pre-print server arXiv, the agent was learning how to play Q*bert when it discovered an “interesting solution.” Normally, in Q*bert, players jump from cube to cube, with this action changing the platforms’ colors. Change all the colors (and dispatch some enemies), and you’re rewarded with points and sent to the next level. The AI found a better way, though; the researchers report:

“First, it completes the first level and then starts to jump from platform to platform in what seems to be a random manner. For a reason unknown to us, the game does not advance to the second round but the platforms start to blink and the agent quickly gains a huge amount of points (close to 1 million for our episode time limit).”

The research paper: Back to Basics: Benchmarking Canonical Evolution Strategies for Playing Atari.

* By “menacing”, I mean real-world systems with life-and-death consequences — medical devices, weapons systems, etc. — not Q*bert.

Loot box legislation

Loot box from Overwatch.Loot boxes are subject to legislation in some countries; other countries are debating legislation.

What is a loot box? Wikipedia states:

In video games, a loot box (sometimes loot crate or prize crate, among other names) is a consumable virtual item which can be redeemed to receive a randomised selection of further virtual items, ranging from simple customization options for a player’s avatar or character, to game-changing equipment such as weapons and armor. A loot box is typically a form of monetisation, with players either buying the boxes directly or receiving the boxes during play and later buying “keys” with which to redeem them.

… Loot boxes are regulated under gambling law in China, Japan, Australia, and the Isle of Man and are the subject of investigations by the gambling regulators of several more countries. They have been criticised as being anti-consumer when implemented in full-priced games. They are a common source of the virtual items used in skin gambling.

[Source]

Recent news about loot box legislation:

[Image: By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=55508954]

Bio-reactors: converting waste into food

Someone should make a game about this:

Autoclavable bench-top laboratory bioreactor used for fermentation and cell culturesSpace scientists propose technology which converts human waste into food:

… A Penn State research team has shown that it is possible to rapidly break down solid and liquid waste to grow food with a series of microbial reactors, while simultaneously minimizing pathogen growth.

“We envisioned and tested the concept of simultaneously treating astronauts’ waste with microbes while producing a biomass that is edible either directly or indirectly depending on safety concerns,” said Christopher House, professor of geosciences, Penn State. “It’s a little strange, but the concept would be a little bit like Marmite or Vegemite where you’re eating a smear of ‘microbial goo.'”

… They reported in Life Sciences in Space Research that they grew M. capsulatus that was 52 percent protein and 36 percent fats, making it a potential source of nutrition for astronauts.

… [The process is] “quite robust and fast and breaks down waste quickly,” said House. “That’s why this might have potential for future space flight. It’s faster than growing tomatoes or potatoes.”

[Source: Microbes may help astronauts transform human waste into food @ Pennsylvania State University]

I like the phrase “series of microbial reactors” — it suggests a series of challenges that the player must overcome — a microscopic Mario, jumping from microbe to microbe, rescuing wayward proteins, defeating evil pathogens, turning that waste into food so the astronauts can reach Mars (where they will continue to eat microbial goo).

[Image: Autoclavable bench-top laboratory bioreactor used for fermentation and cell cultures. By Miropiro, www.bioreactors.eu, www.bioreactor.ch, www.lambda-instruments.in – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29055211.]

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